‘And so, before you go,” boomed J looking round at the hundred or so people he had invited to dinner in his spacious home before turning his penetrating glare onto me, ‘I want you to answer 3 questions.’
I felt for a moment like a very small cloud in a very large sky.
My heart sank, what a nightmare this evening was turning out to be. A bunch of us from the office had been invited to the big boss’s house that night for a party in honor of some foreign visitors. I wasn’t keen but these things have to be done so a colleague and I stopped off for one or two fortifying cocktails on the way. They turned out to be a bit too fortified and when we stepped out into the cold evening I felt a little worse for wear. Notwithstanding (in fact not quite straight standing) we headed off to the big man’s house.
A little bit of back story here. The Big Man was that particular sort of corporate success story. Larger than life, intimidating (he had a carved wooden sign on his desk saying “Get out of my way”) and an arch manipulator. Nothing was ever as it seemed, there was always a scheme, and usually some sacrificial lambs along the way. A lot of energy within the company was used up on preempting and surviving his schemes. Not a management style I seek to emulate but one I was stuck with at the time.
At a board meeting a few months earlier, his Number Two arrived looking quite dreadful. He admitted to feeling a little poorly but, cowering under the bully’s eye, insisted he was fine to keep on working. Before my self-editor had a chance to intervene I heard myself saying “You should go home D, your aura looks terrible. Very yellow with a green tinge”. There was a shocked silence. In fact I had shocked myself too. What on earth was I thinking mentioning such an easily mocked concept after years of careful building a reputation for being a sharp analytical thinker whose gender could be overlooked in the face of extreme rationality?
In particular J looked shocked. Of course, I realized. If your whole system is based on manipulation and misdirects, the last thing you want is the perspicacity of someone reading your aura. I allowed myself the slightest of smiles as he gathered his wits. “Ah well, in that case D, you’d probably better leave”. Later that day the poor man was hospitalized with liver failure and my new reputation was secured. I’m glad to say he made a full recovery, but the incident was clearly not forgotten.
Meanwhile, back to the party. As I skulked into the room, twenty minutes late and hoping to hide quietly in a corner, a cheer went up. Turned out this event was my leaving party (and yes, I had known I was leaving. It wasn’t that kind of a leaving party at least!). No hiding to be done then. Thankfully I was rescued by the emotionally intelligent Corporate Affairs guy who took in the scene in an instant and whisked me off to the dance floor to recover a little.
During his after dinner speech J had finished making his pronouncements and was drawing to a close with that alarming phrase. “And now, I want you to answer 3 questions. Why are you a feminist? Why are you a vegetarian? And can you really read auras?”
I had about five seconds between hearing this and getting to my feet to come up with my answers. Sometimes under pressure we find our truths. There’s no time to decide what to say so instead I was listening – along with the rest of the room – to discover what my observations were on what were maybe correctly identified by J as underpinnings in my world view.
I don’t remember how I answered but I think it probably boiled down to striving for tolerance and seeking understanding, through whatever means available. At least that’s how I would answer today. So maybe it was an attack or maybe it was just tough love and J was handing me a learning opportunity. It doesn’t even matter, any opportunity to reflect on what we stand for is another piece of the puzzle, a way-finder to be welcomed.